Class 15.S15

Entrepreneurship in Large Markets with Low Income, 15.S15 Course Description and Objectives

This course examines how innovations and entrepreneurship can give rise to prosperity in low- income countries, and helps students participate in that opportunity.

Combining historical observations and economic theories with observations of contemporary economic circumstances, the course analyzes the conditions under which innovations and entrepreneurship evolve and contribute to furthering productivity, economic growth, and political progress. Concurrently, the course focuses on models for creating enterprises in low-income countries. Led by a professor of practice with entrepreneurship experience, with additional guest lectures from practitioners, the course blends practice and theory to help students create plans for enterprises in low-income countries.
The course intends to equip the student to:
1. Prepare for enterprise creation in low-income countries
2. Understand how entrepreneurship contributes to the larger good

The course has two overriding themes: a pragmatic understanding of how the student will proceed as an entrepreneur and a theoretical exploration of how that role contributes to greater public good. These two themes are interwoven throughout the class. The first half of the class is generally designed around the larger good theme and the second half of class is dedicated to focus on enterprise creation. However, students will be expected to begin work on business plans at the beginning of the semester in order to submit a well-developed final product at the end of the class; guidelines will be provided.

Guest lecturers for this class have included:

Firas Ahmed

 Director, Emergence BioEnergy

Topic: How to turn cow dung into fuel, and the business opportunity in Bangladesh



Corina Gardner

Mobile Development Intelligence, GSMA Development Fund





Arun Gore

Managing Director and Principal, Gray Ghost Social Ventures Fund     

Arun Gore is Managing Director of Gray Ghost Ventures. Arun spoke about his theory of change: international foundations face challenges regarding the long-term impact of their work. GGV believes that investing in a local entrepreneur, who lives, hires, and does business in the community, is a solution for development that can have a significant, long-term impact. By investing in transformational, early-stage, enterprise solutions in emerging economies, primarily India and to an extent in Africa, GGV’s entrepreneurs and companies contribute to the well-being of low-income communities. In particular, GGV invests in enterprises that increase the ability of the end-customer to improve their quality of life. An example is Beam, which assists unbanked people in India access financial services through their mobile phone. 


Will Guyster

Fellowship Program Manager, Legatum Center





Gil Kemp

Founder, Home Decorators Collection

Topic:  Building a catalog and online retail company from the ground-up, and dealing with large partners like Home Depot




Chuck Lacy

Founder/President, Barred Rock Fund

Topic: How to tell a good idea from a bad one

Chuck Lacy discussed his unconventional view on the qualities of entrepreneurs. Rather than business plans or figures, when Mr. Lacy looks at business proposals, he prefers to search for a go-getter mentality and a willingness to take risks. He offered various anecdotes about all the mistakes, inexplicable decisions and unexpected outcomes that came his way during the formative stages of Ben and Jerry's and in his more recent venture, the Hardwick Beef Company. Finally, he stressed the importance of entrepreneurs keeping themselves challenged, excited and a little bit uncomfortable in every undertaking.


Hari Nair

Venture Partner, Innosight Labs





Satheesh Namasivayam 

Author, Leading without License: Leadership the Anna Hazare Way

Topic: The impact of corruption on business development and life in India


Satheesh Namasivayam gave an exciting talk to our class on "How not to become a victim of corruption". Satheesh first identified the overwhelming public perception that developing countries are corrupt: 60 are perceived by the public to be "highly" corrupt. Nevertheless, businesses wrongly advance corruption to be good with the arguments that it increases efficiency and service, and that it decreases wait time. However, apart from the obvious ethical and legal questions, there are certainly multiple other risks: waste of resources such as time spent with authorities and the risk that the bribe does not return intended results. If it's so pervasive, he asked, how do I become an entrepreneur in one of these countries? He provided three solutions: avoid industries that are heavily regulated, such as mining; choose technologies or ideas that authorities don't yet understand or regulate closely, such as IT and high tech; and leverage network support. He also suggested finding the right partners, bring transparent, and working with parties that work more closely with the authorities. He highlighted the impact of having a culture focused on integrity, and outlined how Novozymes achieved it within its organization. 


Austin Okere      

Founder and CEO, Computer Warehouse Group      

Austin Okere is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Computer Warehouse Group, one of the fastest growing information and communication technology companies in Africa today. Computer Warehouse Group was founded by Mr. Okere in September 1992. The enterprise has grown over the years from just a computer hardware supply company to a Pan-African, Multinational, Systems Integration Corporation, with direct operations in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. CWG serves customers in 20 African countries. From an initial annual turnover of under a million dollars, CWG now has a turnover of about $120 million US, and staff strength of about 550 professionals.





Alex Osterwalder

Author, Speaker and Advisor on Business Model Innovation

Topic: Using a canvass to design and build business models




Bame Pule

Pan-African Private Equity Investor, Actis Africa





Ashish Rajpal

Founder and CEO, iDiscoveri

Topic: How to move from corporate to entrepreneur, how to hire, and how to change the landscape of education in India


Venkat Srinivasan

Founder, EnglishHelper





Bill Staby

CEO, Resolute Marine Energy

Topic: The challenges and opportunities in wave energy for desalination in emerging markets